George Washington Smith.

A history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) online

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From here the route follows almost exactly the Baltimore and
Ohio Southwestern Railroad to Lawrenceville, leaving Olney to the
north probably two miles. From Lawrenceville the army turned
south and followed the Embarras river on the southwest side, cross-
ing the Wabash about two miles south of St. Francisville. From here


the route went east bearing toward the north till they reached Chim-
ney Rock or what Clark called the Second Mamelle, now called
Chimney Pier. From here nearly due north to the village of Vin-
cennes. (See map of Clark's routes.)

The story of the hardships, and the extreme suffering from cold
and hunger which this little army endured, will ever be a tale with
which to stir the patriotic blood of all loyal Illinoisians. Probably
nothing more than the hardships incident to any military campaign-
ing was experienced until they reached the Little Wabash February
13. Here they had to build a boat in which they ferried their bag-
gage, ammunition and men. The Little Wabash was crossed at a
point some three and one-half miles above the union of that stream
and what is called Big Muddy creek. Big Muddy runs toward the
south and nearly parallel with the Little Wabash. The space be-
tween was three miles wide. This is low land and is often over
flowed. At this time the two streams had formed one great wide flood


too deep to be waded. A platform was built in three feet of water,
and the packhorses were brought to this platform where their bur-
dens were transferred to the boat. A similar platform was built on
the opposite shore three miles away where the boat unloaded its
cargo. The shallow water from each edge of the flood to the plat-
forms was nearly a mile wide which made the entire flood five miles.

When they reached the opposite shore they were ordered to lire
no more guns for fear of revealing their coming to the British. They
were now forty miles almost due west of Vincennes. Clark writes
of the crossing of the two streams as follows :

This (flood) would have been enough to have stopped any set of
men not in the same temper that we were. But in three days we con-
trived to cross by building a large canoe, ferried across the two chan-
nels; the rest of the way we waded building scaffolds at each side to
lodge our baggage on until the horses crossed to take them.

On the 16th of February the army crossed Fox river which runs
southward just a mile or so west of Olney.

They pushed forward through rain and mud and reached the Em-
barras river in the afternoon of the 17th. Here they were within
about eight or nine miles of Vincennes but all the lowland between
the Embarras river and the Wabash was flooded and no boats could
be found in which to cross. Here the army turned south and traveled
along the west side of the Embarras hunting a dry spot on which to
camp. Captain Bowman says they "traveled till 8 o'clock in mud
and water" before a camping spot could be found. "18th At day-
break heard Hamilton's morning gun. (They were then ten miles
southwest of Vincennes.) Set off and marched down the river (Em-
barras), saw some fine land. About two o'clock came to the bank of
the Wabash."

Here they spent the next three days, building rafts, digging
canoes, and trying to cross the Wabash. The food was all gone. Ma-
jor Bowman's journal says on the 19th "Many of the men cast
down particularly the volunteers. No provisions now of any sort,
two days, hard fortune." On the 20th, they captured five French-
men from Vincennes who said that Hamilton was ignorant of Clark's
presence on the Wabash. They killed a deer on this day. On the
21st the army was ferried over by the aid of two canoes. They landed
on the east side of the Wabash and rested on a little knob called "The
Mamelle." From here they plunged into the water and made toward
the next "Mamelle" about three miles eastward. Here the little
army stayed over night and on the morning of the 22nd of February,
they moved northward through water to their waists and even to
their shoulders. In addition to the deep water Clark says the morn-
ing of the 22nd was the coldest they had had and that the ice was
over the water from half to three-quarters of an inch. From the sec-
ond "Mamelle" to the next dry ground was about one and a half
miles. Clark says "Getting about the middle of the plain, the water
about mid-deep, I found myself sensibly failing, and as there were
no trees nor bushes for the men to support themselves by, I feared
that many of the most weak would be drowned. . . . Getting to
the woods where the men expected land, the water was up to my
shoulders, but gaining the woods was of great consequence; all the
low men and the weakly hung to the trees, and floated on old logs.


until they were taken off by the canoes. The strong and tall got
ashore and built fires. Many would reach the shore and fall with
their bodies half in the water not being able to support themselves
without it." Providentially an Indian canoe with squaws and chil-
dren was captured. In this canoe was half a quarter of buffalo meat,
some corn, tallow, kettles, etc. Those were confiscated, the food pre-
pared, and served to the weakest ones, though there was a little broth
for all. This meal and the sunshiny weather greatly strengthened
the troops and they took up their march in the afternoon of the 22nd,
for the town and fort then only about four miles away. They reached
the town shortly after dark and while the main body of the troops
took up their position in the village, a detachment of fourteen men
under Lieutenant Bailey attacked the fort.


Shortly after the army came in sight of the town, Colonel Clark
issued a proclamation directed to the people of the village which was
intended as a warning to those inhabitants who were in any way
sympathetic with the British interests. It read as follows :

To the Inhabitants of Post Vincennes :

Gentlemen : Being now within two miles of your village, with
my army, determined to take your fort this night, and not being will-
ing to surprise you, I take this method to request such of you as are
true citizens and willing to enjoy the liberty I bring you, to remain
still in your houses. And those, if any there be, that are friends to
the king will instantly repair to the fort arid join the hair-buyer
general, and fight like men. And if any such as do not go to the fort
shall be discovered afterwards, they may depend on severe punish-
ment. On the contrary, those who are true friends to liberty may
depend on being well treated, and I once more request them to keep
out of the streets. For every one 1 find in arms on my arrival I shall
treat him as an enemy.

G. R. Clark.

The inhabitants of Vincennes, who were at heart favorable to the
Virginians, having heard that their ammunition powder, bullets,
and other munitions was to be moved to Detroit, buried it to pre-
vent its capture by the British. These munitions were now given to
Clark. The bombardment of the fort was kept up nearly all night,
and till 9 o'clock on the morning of the 24th. The firing then ceased
and Colonel Clark sent a note demanding the surrender of the fort.
To this note Lieutenant Governor Hamilton sent a very short reply
"Governor Hamilton begs leave to acquaint Colonel Clark, that he
and his garrison are not to be awed into any action unworthy British
subjects." The firing was renewed and kept up vigorously till in
the afternoon when Governor Hamilton proposed a truce of three
days. Clark refused, but proposed to meet Governor Hamilton at the
church to consider any proposition he might have to make. Hamil-
ton was accompanied by Lieutenant Helm who had been a British
prisoner since he and Moses Henry surrendered the fort the 17th of
December, 1778. Hamilton made a proposition of surrender but Clark
would not accept it. A parley ensued in which Clark told Hamilton


that if he had to storm the fort he feared that his men could not be
restrained from deeds of violence. Both commanders resumed their
places but no firing occurred. Later in the afternoon Colonel Clark
made out articles of capitulation which were satisfactory to Hamil-
ton. And on the 25th of February the fort was turned over to the
victorious frontiersmen.

There were regular British soldiers in the fort and large quanti-
ties of stores said to be worth fifty thousand dollars. Word was re-
ceived that a large quantity of supplies was on the way down the
Wabash from Detroit destined for the British garrison. Clark dis-
patched Captain Helm to discover and capture this merchandise.
This he did and returned in a few days with clothing and supplies
valued at ten thousand pounds sterling. Clark's troops who were
very greatly in need of clothing were now abundantly supplied.
Colonel Hamilton and a few of the officers were sent to Williamsburg
while the soldiers were paroled and allowed to return to Detroit.

Colonel Clark desired very much to attack Detroit, but after con-
siderable delay he decided to return to Kaskaskia. Before leaving
Vincennes he made treaties with the neighboring Indians. He ap-
pointed Captain Helm as civil commandant. Lieutenant Brashear
was made military commander at the fort, and was given forty sol-
diers for that duty. Colonel Clark and the remainder of his army
departed March 20, 1779, for Kaskaskia on the galley the "Willing,"
accompanied by an armed flotilla of seven vessels. The trip down the
Wabash and Ohio and up the Mississippi to Kaskaskia was without
incident. Clark reached Kaskaskia about the latter part of March.

Clark returned to Vincennes in July of the same year expecting to
find troops from Kentucky and Virginia for the Detroit expedition. He
was disappointed. He attempted to recruit soldiers for the Detroit cam-
paign in the region of the Ohio but a letter from Jefferson who was now
governor of Virginia requestes him to construct a fort below the mouth of
the Ohio. Accordingly he undertook this enterprise and by June, 1780,
Fort Jefferson, a few miles below the mouth of the Ohio on the Kentucky
side, was completed. It is said that some of the cannon were removed
there from the abandoned fortifications of Fort Chartres. The ruins of
Fort Jefferson, just below the town of Wycliffe, Ky., may be seen today.
In the fall of 1780, Clark was at Fort Pitt trying to fit out his expedi-
tion for Detroit. In January, 1781, we find Colonel Clark acting in
conjunction with Baron Steuben in repelling the attacks of Benedict
Arnold upon Virginia. In December, 1781, Clark was at the falls of
the Ohio with an army of 750 men. Later he was engaged in an
expedition against the Indians on the Miami river. He never led his
expedition against Detroit. In the summer of 1783, he received the
following communication :

In council, July 2, 1783.

Sir: The conclusion of the war, and the distressed situation of the
state, with regard to its finances, call on us to adopt the most prudent
economy. It is for this reason alone, I have come to a determination to
give over all thought, for the present, of carrying on an offensive war
against the Indians, which, you will easily perceive, will render the ser-
vices of a general officer in that quarter unnecessary, and will, therefore
consider yourself out of command. But. before I take leave of you, I
feel myself called upon, in the most forcible manner, to return you my


thanks, and those of my council, for the very great and singular service
you have rendered your country, in wresting so great and valuable a
territory from the hands of the British enemy ; repelling the attacks of
their savage allies, and carrying on a successful war in the heart of their
country. This tribute of praise and thanks so justly due, I am happy to
communicate to you, as the united voice of the executive.
I am, with respect, sir,

Yours, etc.,
Benjamin Harrison.

Now that we are about to leave our hero for the consideration of
other men and other interests, it may be that some will be curious to
know what was the end of a man to whom the United States owes so much.
We quote from Brown 's History of Illinois :

' ' He was no longer the same man as the conqueror of Kaskaskia, and
the captor of Vincennes. His mind was wounded by the neglect of the
government of Virginia to settle his accounts. Private suits were brought
against him for public supplies, which ultimately swept away his for-
tune, and with this injustice the spirit of the hero fell, and the general
never recovered the energies which stamped him as one of nature's
noblemen. ' '

He spent the later years of his life near Louisville, Kentucky. He
was completely broken in his bodily frame as a result of years of hard
exposure. Rheumatism which ended with paralysis terminated his life
in 1818. He was buried at Locust Grove near Louisville.


By virtue of the authority of the act of the Virginia legislature of
October, 1778, Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, and by virtue of
that position the first governor of Illinois, appointed Colonel John Todd
lieutenant-commandant of the county of Illinois. Col. Todd's com-
mission bears date of December 12, 1778. Colonel Todd was at the time
of his appointment as lieutenant-commandant of Illinois county, a
judge on the bench in Kentucky.

Colonel Todd did not come to Illinois county till May, 1779. Clark
had returned from his campaign, and capture of Vincennes. It is stated
that Col. Todd was received with great joy by the citizens of Kaskaskia.
He was no stranger to many about the village for he had come with Clark
in the campaign of 1778, when the Illinois country was captured from
the British. He is said to have been a soldier with Clark and to have
been the first to enter the fort which Rocheblave surrendered. Be that
as it may, he comes now with the authority of the commonwealth of Vir-
ginia. On June 15, 1779, he issued a proclammation which provided
that no more settlements should be made in the bottom lands, and fur-
ther that each person to whom grants had been made must report his
claim to the proper officer and have his land recorded. If his land had
come to him through transfers, then all such transfers must be recorded
and certified to. This was done to prevent those adventurers who
would shortly come into the country from dispossessing the rightful
owners of those lands.

The country to which Col. John Todd came as county-lieutenant was
in a very discouraging condition. It had reached the maximum of pros-


perity about the time the French turned it over to the English in 1765.
Very many of the French went to New Orleans or to St. Louis during
the British regime. The English king had attempted to keep out the
immigrant. The cultivation of the soil was sadly neglected. The few
French who remained were engaged in trading with the Indians. Many
came to be expert boatmen. Trade was brisk between the French settle-
ments in the Illinois country and New Orleans.

Previous to the coming of Clark the French gentleman, Chevalier
de Rocheblave, who was holding the country in the name of the British
government, had been not only neglectful but really very obstinate and
self willed about carrying on civil affairs. He allowed the courts, or-
ganized by Colonel "Wilkins, to fall into disuse. The merchants and
others who had need for courts found little satisfaction in attempts to
secure justice. During the time between the coming of Clark and of
Todd, there were courts organized but the military operations were so
overshadowing that probably little use was made of them.

Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, made out Colonel Todd's com-
mission and in addition gave him a lengthy letter of instructions.
Todd was directed

To cultivate the affection of the French and Indians.

To impress the people with the value of liberty.

To guarantee an improved jurisprudence.

To consult and advise with the most intelligent and upright persons
who might fall in his way.

To hold the property of the Indians, particularly the land, invi-

To cultivate the good will and confidence of the Spanish command-
ant and his people at St. Louis.

To see that the wife of Chevalier de Rocheblave should have re-
stored to her the property of which she was bereft when her husband
was sent a prisoner to Williamsburg.

To subordinate the military to the civil authority.

To encourage trade.

And to carry out the above principles with "unwearied diligence."

This was no ordinary arrival (the arrival of Todd) at the goodly
French village of Kaskaskia. In eighty years of its existence it had
seen explorers and missionaries, priests and soldiers, famous travelers
and men of high degree come and go, but never before one sent to ad-
minister the laws of a people's government for the benefit of the gov-

It appears from the records of Colonel Todd that on the 14th of
May, 1779, he organized the military department of his work, by ap-
pointing the officers of the militia at Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher,
and Cahokia. Richard Winston, Jean B. Barbeau, and Francois
Trotier were made commandants and captains in the three villages

The next step was to elect judges provided for in the act creating the 1
county of Illinois. Judges were elected at Cahokia, Kaskaskia, and at
Vincennes, and court was held monthly. There seems to have been a
scarcity of properly qualified men for the places as in many instances
militia officers were elected judges, and in one case the "Deputy-Com-
mandant at Kaskaskia filled also the office of sheriff. ' '

Todd issued permits or charters of trade and encouraged those about


him to engage in business. He also gave attention to the subject of
land-claims. No new claims were to be recognized except such as were
made according to the custom of the French inhabitants.

Colonel Todd found enough work to keep him busy and it is doubt-
ful if it was all as pleasant as he might have wished. The records which
he kept, and which are now in the keeping of the Chicago Historical
Society, show that severe penalties were inflicted in those days. On
page 18, bearing date of June 13, is the following order:

Illinois to-wit: to Richard Winston, Esq., Sheriff-in-Chief of the
District of Kaskaskia.

Negro Manuel, a Slave in your custody, is condemned by the court
of Kaskaskia, after having made honorable Fine at the door of the
Church, to be chained to a post at the Water Side, and there to be
burnt alive and his ashes scattered, as appears to me by Record.

This sentence you are hereby required to put in execution on Tues-
day next at 9 o'clock in the morning, and this shall be your warrant.

Given under my hand and seal at Kaskaskia the 13th day of June
(1779) in the third year of the commonwealth.

Jno. Todd.

A similar case to the above is also recorded in the record book kept
by Colonel Todd. It appears that witchcraft among the negro slaves
was a common thing in the French villages, and the punishment was
death. In Reynold's History there is a statement that a negro by the
name of Moreau was hanged for witchcraft in Cahokia in 1790. But in
the record book kept by Todd this entry occurs :

To Capt. Nicholas Janis.

You are hereby required to call upon a party of your militia to
guard Moreau, a slave condemned to execution, up to the town of Cohos
(Cahokia). Put them under an officer. They shall be entitled to pay
rations and refreshments during the time they shall be upon duty to be
certified hereafter by you. I am sir,

Your humble servant,

Jno. Todd
15th June, 1779.

Colonel Todd held this position of county-lieutenant for about three
years. During that time he established courts, held popular elections,
and executed the law with vigor.

In the spring of 1780 he was elected a delegate from the county of
Kentucky to the Virginia legislature. He attended the sessions of the
legislature and while at the capital married. In the fall he returned to
Lexington, Kentucky, where he left his bride and came to Illinois
county. In the spring or summer of 1781, Governor Jefferson appointed
Todd colonel of Fayette county, Kentucky. He purposed settling in
Richmond, Virginia, permanently, but in August he was temporarily
in Lexington when an attack was made on the town by Indians. The
retreating redskins were pursued, and at the Battle of Blue Licks,
fought August 18, 1782, Todd was killed.

There was a deputy county-lieutenant or deputy-commandant in
each village, and when Colonel Todd was absent, the reins of govern-
ment were in the hands of one of these deputies. On the occasion of
his absence at the time of his death he had left, it seems, Timothy De-

VoL 17


mountbrun as county lieutenant. This man seems to have been the
only one authorized to rule, till the coming of St. Clair in 1790.


In the famous resolution introduced into the Continental congress
by Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, on June 7, 1776, there were three
distinct provisions:

1. That we are and of right ought to be free and independent states.

2. That we ought to form a National government.

3. That we ought to send ministers abroad to solicit aid in estab-
lishing our independence.

The resolutions were adopted. A committee known as the Grand
Committee consisting of one representative from each state, was ap-
pointed to draw up the form of government. This committee reported
what came to be known as the Articles of Confederation. This docu-
ment provided that it should go into effect when it should be ratified by
all of the thirteen colonies. By the spring of 1781, all the states had
ratified except Maryland. This state refused to ratify the article un-
less all the states that had claims to western lands should cede their
lands to the United States to be disposed of for the good of the govern-
ment as a whole. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, the
two Carolinas, and Georgia had claims to western lands. These states
after due consideration of all of the interests involved in the refusal of
Maryland to endorse the articles, agreed to cede their lands ; and Mary-
land, on the 1st of March, 1781, ratified the Articles of Confederation
and the government went into operation under the articles on the 2d
of the same month.

By reference to a former chapter it will be seen that Virginia,
Connecticut, and Massachusetts all had claims to land lying within the
present state of Illinois. Virginia's claim rested on her "sea to sea"
grant of 1609. But in addition she claimed the territory now included
in Illinois, because her troops had captured this territory from the
British, and her civil government had been extended over it as has been
shown in the last chapter.

Virginia passed her ordinance of cession in October, 1783, which
authorized her representatives in congress to sign the deed of transfer.
This deed of transfer was duly signed by Thomas Jefferson, Samuel
Hardy, Arthur Lee, and James Monroe, December 20, 1783. From this
time forward Virginia had no more interest in the Illinois country than
had any other state, except that there were reserved certain lands which
she wished to use in payment of her soldiers.


In 1784 congress passed an ordinance which was to serve as a basis
of civil government in the territory north of the Ohio river, until such
time as there should be sufficient population to justify the admission
of the territory into the union as states. In 1785 a system of surveys
was adopted by congress which probably was the beginning of what
afterward was called the rectangular system of surveys. The public
land was to be laid off in squares six miles each way, and each six miles
square was then to be subdivided into squares of one mile on a side.


The law of 1784 provided for an officer corresponding to our surveyor
general. Thomas Hutchins, formerly an engineer in the British army
was appointed to this office, and his work was very valuable in the
early settlement of the west. The ordinance of 1784 was intended to
provide a means by which the inhabitants could organize a temporary
government. It assumed that the country could be or was settled. And
until such time as the inhabitants should call on congress to provide a
temporary government for them there was really no government for

Online LibraryGeorge Washington SmithA history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) → online text (page 15 of 65)